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Liability for Brake Check Crashes in Florida

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Posted on February 7, 2023

One of the most common types of car accidents in Florida is the rear-end collision. This is when the front of one car strikes the back of the vehicle in front of it. In most cases, the rear driver will be held responsible for a rear-end collision, as it is this driver’s responsibility to maintain a safe following distance and pay attention to the road. However, liability can change if the lead driver is guilty of brake checking.

What Is a Brake Check Accident?

Brake checking refers to hitting the brakes abruptly and without reason to alarm, startle or agitate another driver. If Driver B is behind Driver A, for example, and Driver A wants to send a message, he or she may brake check Driver B. Brake checking is a reckless and dangerous driving practice that is a form of aggressive driving. It is an unacceptable way to “get back” at another driver who is tailgating, honking or behaving rudely.

Brake checking is dangerous for many reasons. Since it is often used as a way of telling the second driver to stop tailgating, there is often not enough room between the two vehicles for the second driver to stop in time to avoid a rear-end collision. This type of crash could cause severe injuries, including whiplash and broken bones. Brake checking can also escalate a road rage situation, potentially resulting in a car accident or violent encounter between the two drivers.

Are There Laws Against Brake Checking in Florida?

Yes. Brake checking violates Florida’s law against reckless driving. Florida Statutes Section 316.192 defines reckless driving as driving a vehicle in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor that could be enhanced to a felony if the reckless driver causes serious bodily injury to another.

Following too closely is also against Florida law, under Section 316.0895. This law prohibits following a motor vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent based on the traffic and condition of the highway and the speeds of both vehicles. If a driver is illegally following too closely or tailgating, the correct reaction is to move carefully out of the driver’s way and report him or her to the local authorities for reckless driving. Brake checking is never the answer.

Who Is Liable for a Brake Check Car Accident?

For the most part, liability for a brake check accident will go to the driver that suddenly slammed on the brakes. This is in contrast to the majority of rear-end collisions, in which the rear or second driver is found to be at fault for following too closely. If an investigation finds that the leading driver had no legitimate reason to abruptly hit the brakes, this can serve as evidence of brake checking with intent to aggravate or startle another driver. Proof of brake checking can place liability for a resultant wreck with that driver.

Determining liability for a car accident in Florida requires an investigation. Depending on the complexity of the case, an investigation may require statements from eyewitnesses, expert witness testimony and assistance from accident reconstruction specialists. Common forms of evidence to determine fault include a police accident report and photos and videos of the crash. If investigators conclude that a driver had no reason to abruptly hit the brakes, he or she can be held at least partially responsible for a related car accident.

Florida’s Unique No-Fault Law

It is not always necessary to determine fault or liability for a car accident due to Florida’s no-fault law. Under this rule, all drivers will seek financial compensation from their own personal injury protection insurance, regardless of who caused the crash. These types of claims do not require an injured party to prove negligent or reckless driving. However, if a collision causes severe injuries, such as significant loss of a bodily function or severe scarring and disfigurement, the victim can bring a claim against the at-fault driver.

If you were injured in an accident that you believed was caused by a brake-checking driver, contact a car accident attorney in Tampa for assistance.